Was the Conservation Statement supporting demolition at best inaccurate?
UPDATE: History now completed – Link
Having survived for two hundred years entombed by surrounding buildings St Philip’s is no more. The bulldozers finally came calling.
St Philip’s was one of three churches in Liverpool designed by Thomas Rickman and constructed by John Cragg proprietor of the Mersey Iron Foundry, in which cast iron was used in new and innovative ways. The church opened in 1816 and closed in 1882 before then being enclosed by other buildings, most latterly Atlantic/Hardman House (a full history will follow). The arguments for and against saving these later buildings is for another day.
I am now in the process of researching another ‘short-history’ of a lost Liverpool building, but the immediate question in this instance, based on the evidence strewn about us, has to be however ‘was the Conservation Report supporting demolition and the planning application at best inaccurate?’
You can read or download here the full Conservation Statement which was submitted to support the controversial planning application, and draw your own conclusions. Within it you will read:
5.4 Much less survives at St Philip’s. Were St Philip’s to remain in its original state, it would probably be listed Grade II*. For although no impression of the interior survives to allow a definite judgement to be made, it is probably safe to say that the church would never have compared in terms either of innovation or aesthetic quality with St George or St Michael. What survives of St Philip’s today, however, is so little that any significance it has is almost entirely historical. The only physical features of value are the fragmentary section of the west window (in a modern and inappropriate setting) and the in-situ hood mould. These are features which would not lose what significance they have if they were removed and reset either on site or elsewhere.
The evidence to be seen on the demolition site, some set aside some on pile heaps, seems to suggest otherwise:
At this point in time it is unclear what the developers intentions are with regard to these important relics from one of Liverpool’s most historically important churches. We must hope, were possible, they are restored and put on display along with interpretation boards sharing the history of the church. This could be within the Museum of Liverpool, or a suggestion has been made that they could perhaps form part of a public sculpture within the grounds of the contemporary ‘Bombed Out Church’. Perhaps something within the grounds of the planned student development…as long as fully accessible to the public!
Liverpool Council have been informed of the finds.
“The three cast iron churches erected by Cragg in Liverpool mark an extraordinary episode in church building, and are chiefly remarkable for their pioneering use of cast iron” – Conservation Statement
Proposed Redevelopment of the William Smith Warehouse 61/63 Norfolk St
The debate about Liverpool’s heritage never really abates, and with the continuing threat from UNESCO to withdraw our World Heritage Site status it has again been much in the news.
Liverpudlians care deeply about our history, and cherish very much the tangible signs we retain around our city. This applies not only to our great statements of glorious days past such as the Royal Liver Buildings, St George’s Hall, and Lime St Station, but also to the less glamourous and obvious buildings that act as a conduit to both distant and more recent history.
You may be familiar with my (far too many) tweets, most of which are in relation to our history and buildings. My key aim, in addition to fuelling my own interest, is to encourage others to also appreciate our incredible history – that which we can still ‘see’ and that which is confined to ‘print’. Some tweets get more reaction than others but one topic that always generates a response is the loss of what people consider to be a heritage building. A recent example in case being that of Bushell’s Building on Springfield which was recently demolished by Mersey Fire for a steel training tower
Positively though more response comes from a good news story were a building is hopefully to be appropriately redeveloped – William Smith’s Warehouse!
At the time of writing the following tweet has, as you can see, proved very popular:
Baltic Creative has revealed plans to redevelop the unlisted building into a ‘Tech Hub’ for creative and digital businesses.
Planning permission has been granted, a design team appointed, and they are now seeking a main contractor with a view to starting works in November 2017. You can view the planning application here 16F/1133 and the ‘Design & Access Statement’ by K2 Architects here
People will have their own views (I love them) on the architectural/aesthetic merits of the redevelopment but there does seem to be universal approval for the efforts to save the building.
Part of the appreciation for the building comes from living memories of the site as Guinness Export, a large local employer for many years, and also as a result of it being one of a dwindling number of such buildings remaining in the Baltic Triangle (and indeed in the wider city).
A Short History of the Building
The building was built in two phases, the first phase in 1881 a 4-storey storage warehouse. It was then expanded with a 2-storey extension in 1882 along Simpson St and what was the lower part of Brick St. According to historical records the buildings were built by William Smith, a paper stock, metal and general merchant who lived at 78 Gregson St Everton, and later in Great George Square. The 1881 Street Directory lists William Smith, Marine Store Dealer at 61-63 Norfolk Street. A Marine Store Dealer was a licensed broker who bought and sold used cordage, bunting, rags, timber, metal and other general waste materials. He usually sorted the purchased waste by kind, grade etc. He also repaired and mended sacks etc.
Documents then indicate that Smith became bankrupt in 1895.
Fire insurance maps from 1890 show the buildings as a ‘Rag WHSE’ and ‘Rag Sorting’, which suggest the buildings use initially continued unchanged:
The K2 Architects documents say:
‘the smaller section to the rear is of a different style and proportion, suggesting it was used for something other than storage. Our research would suggest it housed a delivery entrance and an office/admin area. The huge 500mm thick walls, highly engineered facade and crafted metal work over the entrance would also suggest this warehouse was of high importance when Liverpool was at the height of its trading days’
Looking at the 1906 map we see the building is neighboured by a ‘Bottle Works’. This at some point became part of Guinness Export Bottling Plant, as did the Smith Warehouse.
By the 1930s the building is listed as a Seed Merchants – A S Hooper, whose name can still be seen above the corner doorway:
I need to do some more research on the Guinness tenancy, but it is apparent that Guinness Export Ltd expanded several times over the years and many have good memories of working at the plant (I would love to hear more), before it finally closed in early 1986 with the loss of many jobs. Local MP at the time Robert Parry would raise this in Parliament in the context of the wider catastrophic Merseyside job losses.
In 1988/89 the main building, which was originally between Brick St and Norfolk St, and which had stood empty for a number of years was leased by Skillian an Australian Self Storage Company. It is now home to Safestore
How refreshing is it, that at a time when developers are so keen to send in the bulldozers, that a local organisation with local interests at heart are prepared to go that extra mile to preserve rather than destroy. Of course, this is not just out of sentimentality but because they feel it makes good business sense and meets the needs of a unique area of Liverpool.
I wish Baltic Creative all the best in their endeavours to bring these buildings back to life, and hope they have good luck in overcoming the inevitable hurdles ahead.
Let’s hope this is not the last such redevelopment in the Baltic Triangle.
…………..a few interesting snippets thanks to people on Twitter:
I see W Smith lived in 30 Great George Square, where my grandfather and uncle lived and worked as GPs. I then worked in Guinness Exports….
You weren’t allowed to drink the Guinness. It was a bonded warehouse patrolled by HM Customs. Instant dismissal or prosecution…. ….nevertheless you came home reeking of Guinness!
We sent Guinness all over the world (a lot of embassies), which is how I knew where to buy it in Greece.
If you are interested in historic Liverpool warehouses I thoroughly recommend reading this book/PDF file
Update: Nov 2017
Scaffolding has now been erected around the site (possibly for safety works) and the road is closed for 40 weeks. Hopefully this means we will see a start soon!
A building that comes from a key trade in Liverpool, a building sadly in disrepair:
HISTORY: No.10-16 Victoria Street was built in c.1888 as a railway goods depot for the London & North Western Railway and was converted into a fruit exchange in 1923 by James B Hutchins. The building was originally constructed to serve Exchange Station on Tithebarn Street (the first station was built in 1850 and a larger version constructed in 1886-8; this eventually closed in 1950). After its change of use in 1923 the Fruit Exchange became the main trading point for fruit produce within the city and dealt with the majority of fruit imports coming into Liverpool. Warehouses in the Mathew Street area behind were used to store the fruit sold at the exchange. In the late C20 the lower ground floor was converted into separate public houses.
A must see video from the BBC:
Lets hope a new use can be found and this gem is still here for future generations to see
The Fruit Exchange is owned by Cloudbluff Properties, whose director, Robert McGorrin, has been hoping to secure a viable long-term future for it since 2009.
He says: “It’s a great building – the auction rooms are unbelievable. There is so much history attached to the place.”
Footnote: I am advised that the owners have been carrying out some work to preserve the structural integrity of the building. As for future usage the Grade II listing of the building limits the alterations that can be made. Options are being explored.
Embark on a tour of Liverpool with comic actor Deryck Guyler and his nephew, Keith, who asks rather too many questions for his uncle’s liking. As well as the two-mile Mersey Tunnel, a pair of cathedrals and Calderstones Park, where “there’s always a pageant of colour and fragrance”, some of the city’s lesser-known charms are on show, not least the most elaborate wine dispenser ever, hidden in the Town Hall’s silverware collection.
When this film was shown in cinemas in the mid-1950s audiences would have instantly recognised the voice of Deryck Guyler, who was already a stalwart of BBC Radio Light Programmes. He would later enter the realm of TV and feature film, including a memorable role in A Hard Day’s Night (1964), and is probably best remembered for his sitcom roles, including PC ‘Corky’ Turnbull in Sykes, and caretaker Norman Potter in Please Sir!
For those who have followed my many tweets about the 2016 Parr St mill fire here is a link to the Liverpool City Council Report:
5.0 Recommendation It is recognised that the unauthorised demolition represent a criminal act, which the Council take seriously. However, it is also recognised that there are practical difficulties with serving an Enforcement Notice requiring the warehouse to be re-built and that the parties involved in this case could present a reasonable defence to a prosecution. Given the considerations above, it is concluded that a prosecution or the serving of any Notice, is unlikely to be successful. It is therefore concluded that it is not expedient to take any further formal action in this case. .....you may query why it took the planning enforcement team one month to contact the developer to advise planning permission is needed and demolition must cease
Time-line of Events
12 February 2016 – Building Control application DEM/0012/16 validated, estimating date of commencement of demolition as 5 July 2016
24th June – fire occurs
26th June – Site inspected by XXXX structural engineer
27th June 2016 – email notification of commencement of demolition sent to LCC Building Control
instructions were given to Mees Demolition to undertake works
Access also given to the site to ADS ad XXXX (Civil & Structural Engineers) re to carry out structural reports
28th June 2016 – Report dated 28th June 2016 issued to Mees demolition
13th July 2016 – site inspection undertaken, ADS Structural Engineers
14th July 2016 – Mees aware demolition had begun
21st July 2016 – Complaints received July 2016 re demolition of building.
28th July 2016 – planning enforcement team contact developer to advise planning permission is needed and demolition must cease
29th July 2016 – developer email to WYG, architects, asking to advise contractors to cease demolition
23rd August 2016 – Cautioned Letters Sent to:
Falconer Chester Hall: WYG: Wolstenhome Square Developments Ltd
Mees Property Group – no response: Mainsway Ltd
17th March 2017: Council report finally made available
On the south perimeter wall, facing Maryland St, the modern graffiti poetically declares;
‘Happiness is a journey not a destination’
I don’t know the motivation of the writer but the phrase does somehow feel appropriate to the church it ‘adorns’.
St. Andrew’s has certainly been on a journey, and I have no doubt it has indeed brought much happiness over the past 192 years. That is not to say it has been a journey without turmoil, it certainly has, but 2017 and the church’s current re-incarnation housing students on the outset of adult life is perhaps a cause for happiness in itself.
As to the ‘destination’ I will leave it to those of a more theological persuasion to consider.
The history I have collated will hopefully give you a good feel of the history and legacy of St. Andrew’s and its congregation. I would like to acknowledge the very kind assistance provided by Dr John Henderson, formerly Clerk to the Congregational Board of St. Andrew’s during its later years worshipping at the Anglican Cathedral.
I hope you enjoy reading the book, and the many avenues it may lead you along. It would be nice to think that it will reach as many people as possible with connections to St. Andrew’s, or indeed the wider Scottish Liverpool community – please share widely and acknowledge source.
Get in touch if you have any personal stories or hidden gems you can add!
It is easy for some to label those who wish to preserve our built heritage as ‘heritage looneys’ or ‘stuck in the past’ etc. I am one of those who see the wisdom in retaining, were feasible, what we can. Not just for my generation but for those who follow us. Every time I walk past an old building I want to learn about it, and from learning about the building I learn about our heritage in all its wondrous forms.
If you take 2016 as an example, the following gallery will show you just how quickly our past can be lost. All the buildings pictured have already been demolished this year or are currently subject to planning applications……. and once they have gone they have gone. Lets be careful we are not discarding the past in the race for the future. Progress by all means but please make preservation at least a consideration……or better still look after and maintain them in the first place!
UPDATE at 13th April 2017: Apart from Clares/Bushell’s Building, demolition of which is now in progress, all these have now gone!
Please let me know if I have missed any buildings from the list.
As I walk around Liverpool, which I do on an almost daily basis, the one question above all others I hear myself saying is along the lines of ‘What was there before?’. Sometimes the answer is easy and is within living memory, other times a quick Google search will suffice. The best times though are when it takes in-depth research to unearth the layers of history a particular building, street, or place may be masking beneath its latest incarnation. This has been the case with St. Paul’s Square and its current 21st Century temples of glass and steel.
What was intended as research for a blog post became more fascinating than I had imagined, and developed into a piece of work hopefully more significant.
If you can I would encourage you to first walk around, or visit virtually, the St. Paul’s Square we have today. Then as you read the full research immerse yourself in the winds of change this fascinating spot has experienced over the past 250+ years.
‘St. Paul’s Church-yard’, as it was initially called, was laid out c1760 on what was then ‘Dog Field’. Steers Dock was but 45 years old but Liverpool was now growing into one of the UK’s and indeed World’s key ports. I very much doubt that those who planned the square had envisaged the incredible wave of change that was soon to engulf both it and the growing town.
The next 250 years tells a tale of a city condensed into a square of just 50 yards by 64 yards. It has elements of immigration, religious intrigue, social change, tragedy, industry, commerce, health care, innovation, entertainment, re-birth, and a world first.
I hope to update the research in coming months as I gather further information, some hopefully shared by readers of this blog post.
If you are interested in helping get the PDF ‘published’, or printed for free distribution to interested parties then I’d love to hear from you!
Please click on the following link to open PDF, and I hope you enjoy!
It would be great to hear your thoughts, cheers.
Liverpool city centre is a busy, vibrant and welcoming success story, which through difficult times still manages to expand. It is however true that some streets fare less well than others, and one of these is one of our original 7 streets dating from the 1200’s – Dale Street. Not without its own notable successes though. The soon to open Double-Tree by Hilton Hotel (awaits the inevitable councillor selfies), the impressive Royal Insurance Assurance rescue into the Aloft Hotel. The ongoing conversion of ‘Two Moorfields’ into residential units. The Ibis Hotel and Tesco with some excellent facade retention, and smaller successes like Sixty Dale St, Delkery, and JD Gyms.
If you take time to walk along the north side however you will notice what could be a sign of tough times ahead with empty units, derelict empty spaces, and stalled schemes which promised much:
We have had some high profile publicity for schemes like the Dale St shops site, and Princes Building, and if they come off the picture becomes much brighter. The above list though does serve notice that Liverpool Council needs to take a pro-active approach to preserving one of our original thoroughfares and ensuring it shares in the city’s continuing success.
Behind the scenes blog covering National Museums Liverpool’s galleries and museums in Liverpool and Wirral.
How can you not be fascinated by the history of Liverpool! - If Liverpool did not exist, it would have to be invented” - Felicien de Myrbach.
How can you not be fascinated by the history of Liverpool! - If Liverpool did not exist, it would have to be invented” - Felicien de Myrbach.